The wind flicked through her auburn hair as she wandered steadily through the field, hands outstretched to greet the swaying grass. The sun beamed down at her lazily from its perch. The coolness of the breeze on her arms spread word of the coming season. The leaves danced – orange, gold, yellow and a tried green. The kaleidoscopic light splashed across her skin, shifting back and forth. She surveyed her surrounds, in awe of the majesty of the display. Her eyes blazed in the crisp air.
They came upon a dense fortress of proteas.
“What is going to happen to all the flowers?”
“How do you mean, Si?” He looked at her, a wander in his piercing eyes.
“What will the flowers do if the fires come?”
He thought for a moment. “The flowers and the fires work together. The flowers enjoy long lives out in the sunshine and rain. When the fires come the old flowers go to sleep in the flames. But after the fire has gone, the seeds for new flowers wake up, and start to grow in the open spaces cleared by the fires.”
“The new flowers grow because of the fire?” she asked incredulously.
“Of course,” he affirmed with a gentle smile.
Order restored to the world, they walked further. The scent of the damp, fallen leaves was swept out from under their feet and up, up and away. Silencia began to hum a trickling tune – flowing and sweet. Then she paused.
“Why do we call them flowers?”
He turned his gaze to her. “What would you like to call them?”
“I like to call them ‘flowers’. But then I was talking to Mélanie and she called them ‘fleurs’. I told her they were called ‘flowers’, not ‘fleurs’, but she refused to listen. So then I went home and told Mommy and Daddy about Mélanie and her ‘fleurs’ and they told me that they also had different names for flowers. Daddy called them ‘blomme’ and Mommy called them ‘Blumen’. I got really cross because they’re called ‘flowers’ and not all these funny other names.”
Papa looked at her, fully appreciating her dilemma. “Do you know why you call them ‘flowers’?
“Because that’s what they’re called.”
“How do you know that is their name?”
“I have always called them ‘flowers’.”
“Do you think Mélanie has always called them ‘fleurs’?”
She chewed on the thought. “Yes – I suppose. So then who is right?” Silencia asked anxiously.
“Why must one name be right and the other wrong?”
“They cannot be called ‘flowers’ and ‘fleurs’ and ‘blomme’ and ‘Blumen’!” she exclaimed in exasperation.
She raised up her arms in emphasis. “Because that is so confusing.”
“The flowers do not get confused – they do not mind if you call them different names.”
“But it is so confusing for me – how can a ‘flower’ be the same as a ‘fleur’?” Silencia’s lips trembled, her distress clearly welling up from within. Papa smiled with love and understanding. It held her from spilling over the edge.
“The thing that you call a ‘flower’ – is it the same thing that Mélanie calls a ‘fleur’?”
“So you can both see it and touch it and smell it?”
“Then it does not matter what you call it – because you understand that you are talking about the same thing.”
“So Mélanie is also right?”
“She is not wrong,” he offered gently.
Silencia pondered the thought for a long while. Her initial resignation slowly gave way to understanding. Turning to Papa again, she asked earnestly, “But if everyone is right, what name am I supposed to use?”
“Which name do you like best?”
“I… really like calling them ‘flowers’.”
“Then that is what you should call them.”
She became silent in thought, the twists and turns flashing clearly across her young face. Finally her brow relaxed. As she found resolution, it was as if her entire body had been released from the struggle of her mind.
“I like that,” she declared.
“What do you like, Si?”
“That I can be right, but also Mélanie and Daddy and Mommy.”
He laughed. “It is wonderful, isn’t it?”
“And the flowers do not mind?”
“No – the flower is happy with all of its names.”
“Good,” she said, a single nod to stamp her approval.
Silencia raced back to the world of proteas. She looked to her left, to her right, then leaned in and whispered, “I knew you were flowers.” She closed her eyes. Softly, she began to sing the song she had been humming.
Silencia skipped lightly to where Papa was sitting on a rock. She sat down next to him, and looked to the sinking sun across the valley. Brushstrokes of clouds stemmed from all around the blazing orb. The bright light stood in contrast with the shadowed clouds that glided towards them as the sun neared its daily rest. The layers in the sky seeped into one another. Directly above the two onlookers the colours began a deep azure, blending with pale blue below, then with translucent peach, with luminous pink, and finally with burning red. The dusk light emphatically outlined the clouds, rays spreading far and wide in the last embrace of day. A green flash burst forth as the sun tipped off the edge of the world – a final salute from a warm friend.
Silencia grinned to herself, suppressing a knowing giggle. Papa looked to her, then to the glorious heavens. “This really is spectacular, isn’t it?”
She looked up with her swirling blue eyes, a depth to match the skies above. “I did that,” she said softly, letting him in on her secret.
“You’re getting really good at them.”
“Thank you,” said Silencia, and she began to blush. A red to match the last fiery trails as the light began to fade.